Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Going solo: Ri and I

Not Riley and Stacey
For thirteen months, Ri has benefitted from the expertise and skilled riding of his trainer. She rode him, showed him, cantered him across open fields, took him on trails alone, worked through some minor naughtiness, taught him the basics of being a riding horse as well as hinting at things to come (Collection! Half-pass!). We’ve been to Devon, clinic’ed with some big names, done some recognized shows, all with my trainer on board. It’s been fun, and I’m so grateful.

"Why is a trainer riding your horse?"
Another boarder asked me what I was "trying to accomplish" by having a trainer and doing all the riding.   The first answer I think of is that it has been fun! Having someone else ride your young horse relieves you of pressure, and you can just enjoy watching your youngster develop. But also, I want to be a responsible owner, and a good steward, of this young horse. Ri needs to be a good equine citizen so that if he leaves my hands, he’ll be more likely to go to good home.  The way to make that happen, is to give him a good start, free of bad habits, and if possible,  for him to do well in the show ring. I’m always amazed at what people put up with in a horse that wins ribbons.

The money angle
I don’t regret a penny of the money I've invested, but it is a daunting amount. In the last couple of months, I am increasingly alarmed at my credit card statement, and my savings balance. I mean, think about it. Two horses, two farrier bills, two vet bills, showing, clinics, and training--and I’m a librarian, woo hoo. Here’s the bottom line. I can’t do this any more. I’s financially brain-dead. And, it's time to focus on the goal of horse ownership, not to have someone else ride my horse, but for me to ride and enjoy my chestnut friend.  For once, it’s okay to say it. It’s about me.

I had the discussion with my trainer, and as of now we’re on a training hiatus. I am riding Riley as often as I can, and it isn’t so bad. Not too many wow moments, but he seems reasonably happy. I think this is truly the only way I’ll be able to figure him out. Next goal: Training level at our next show in July. That means steadier contact and CANTER. Getting it, keeping it, and not falling into the trot like we've been dropped from a building. All in that teensy freakin’ arena.


  1. Well, good luck!

    Are you going to be able to continue taking lessons?

    I hope to get an unstarted young horse in the next few years, and I expect to have that horse at my trainer's for the start, rather than at my home. I won't be able to get there to ride every day, but will want the support of someone who knows what she's doing, and will work out a schedule so my trainer can ride when I don't make it. Right now, my trainer only tends to ride my horse every couple of weeks during part of my lesson - but it's still helpful. In our case, it's more for her to give me ideas of things to work on based upon what she can feel (straightness issues you can't always see, but can feel coming, for example; contact starting to get tenuous but still correct as another). She also shows him for me, because he... well, he completely loses his mind at shows. I can ride him and not lose control in a dangerous manner at shows, but I don't MAKE him perform well at the same time. She gets 60s out of him in first level when he's bucking and being a bronc in the warmup. He needs that, as I am too nice and need to work on correcting myself before I can correct him well!

    I think you have made so many great decisions with Riley so far, this is probably the correct decision, too. He had a great start, is going so nicely, and you probably DO need to be the one on him regularly if you want to learn to build your partnership with him. I think the tendency some people have to think there's something wrong with a training ride is very odd. My trainer SHOULD know more than I do and be better at helping figure out how to fix problems. That doesn't mean I'm not the one who has taught him lengthenings, h/i, s/i, starting to get half steps, and starting canter half pass. It just means she can check how they're going and let me know if his shoulder is too blocked or anything relevant to fixing mistakes I make before they become permanent habits.

    About this time last year I was in the middle of a period where I had problems getting the canter and staying in it once I did. We figured it out, and I bet you and Riley do quite quickly! Good luck - I'm excited for you!

  2. That's great :) It's a scary leap to take on the responsibility of continuing a young horse's training. But you're right, you totally done him right by starting him professionally. I loved watching my trainer(s) work Pongo! But when it's time, it's time. Me and my wallet understand what you mean. There will be some growing pains as you guys figure it all out, but that's half the fun. Messing him up a little, making him your horse, teaching him and yourself brand new things. So many cool accomplishments to look forward to! Cant wait to hear all about your progress.

  3. You can do it! Looking forward to hearing all about your July show.

  4. Heather in FloridaJune 21, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    Today is your day.
    You're off to Great Places!
    You're off and away!
    You have brains in your head.
    You have feet in your shoes
    You can steer yourself
    any direction you choose.
    You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the gal who'll decide where to go."

    Sorry - couldn't stop myself from quoting Dr. Seuss!

    SO HAPPY that you and Mr. Riley will now embark on your journey...TOGETHER:) I have read your blog from the beginning...and can't wait to read what is to come in the future:)

  5. I think you made a good investment - now it is time to enjoy and take a break from paying that extra out each month! Enjoy the beautiful boy!

  6. I actually love having other people (that I trust... namely my trainer) hop on my horse. It doesn't happen very often (all of twice) but I think it's great for them to
    A) have more than oneperson ride the horse
    B) you can see what the horse looks like to others
    C) get any quirks that you're missing fixed! Sometimes you just get so used to things being the way they are you pass right over 'em!

  7. I am with you about those arenas being way too small for young horses. Canter for us is a wild ride, and those corners come up way too fast!
    Good to hear your riding more though.

  8. Now that Riley has a good start, he will have a good future, no matter what he does. Remember, though, that Riley has no ambitions, so he is not "owed" any more expensive or talented or professional training than you can offer. If you just make him into a happy trail horse, that will be just fine. Or, if you aspire to upper level dressage and it takes you "forever" to do it on your own, that's fine too.

    Riley is your horse to enjoy, love and care for. You have already done more than most people might have to bring him safely through his injury. Now, go out and enjoy him however you want. Just make sure you are having fun with it. Riley will thrive on your happiness.

  9. You will do great, I commend you for having someone get his basics down so well too. Congrats on your new chapter in life with Riley!


  10. I am also considering a change, but it's hard because I see so much benefit in my trainer having her time with my horse. It's all about the $$$ :-/

  11. Congrats. This will be a great new chapter for you and Ri. I'm training my young horse with an occasional trainer ride here and there. I often feel like I don't quite live up to my horse's talent and would love to see what a pro could do with him.

    But I remind myself that Eragon is happy with the pace I've set, and I have pros around to step in if I need more support. There's nothing better than the connection that comes from being a horse's primary rider. Sure, there will be sticky training moments. But there will also be breakthroughs that will be all your own.

  12. I find this announcement completely unsurprising. It's what I assumed would happen, because it's just what I would plan on doing with a youngster: have a trainer start him, and then take over myself, probably with some "tune-ups" as needed. I think you're doing a GREAT job, Stacey! :-) You and Ri-Ri are ready to get out there and go.

  13. Congratulations! I took lessons for a very long time before finally owning my horse. A trainer and horse ownership was not a financial possibility, so I have mostly gone it alone and learned mountains more than I ever did with just lessons. It is a little scary though, and expect those feelings the first time that your horse does something naughty. Just believe in yourself and read everything you can find. You can do it!

  14. I could never understand why you would let someone else ride your beautiful horse! (Not only let, but pay them to do so.)

    It probably seems more strange to me though because having a trainer is very uncommon in Australia. We may send a horse off to a trainer for a short period, but we don't have a trainer to ride the horse regularly while we also ride. It seems quite common in the States.

    I think this is fantastic news and I'm looking forward to reading about the journey ahead and the developing partnership between YOU and your horse.

    I was often disappointed to read an account of a competition or clinic to find you didn't ride yourself.

    Good times ahead!

  15. Yes, the lessons are very important! I hope you can take lessons, not just clinics. But this?
    "Ri needs to be a good equine citizen so that if he leaves my hands, he’ll be more likely to go to good home."
    Are you thinking of selling him someday?

  16. Lovely to see you moving on towards the next milestone. *waves Team Riley flag*

  17. Kitty Bo, heavens no, no thoughts of selling him, but you never know what life will hand you, and a few years back when the economy tanked I wondered what on earth I would do if I were unemployed, or sick, or whatever. The best way to ensure a good home is to make your horse the kind of horse people want.

    Heather, I love the Dr. Seuss, and Jean that is just what I need to hear. Thanks!

  18. I understand completely about the money angle, I hava had to borrow so much money from my family to keep my pony, and I just can't see an end to it.
    Good luck with taking the big step with Ri, I am sure you will do very wel with him, and it will be great for you to enjoy him and have fun riding him. I look forward to future posts updating us on progress. What is the goal with Ri, what are you intending to do with him?

  19. I think you'll have a great time with him. It's always nice to have the foundation built correctly -- now you can have fun and the two of you can build on that together.


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